Genre: Action/RPG Developer: T&E Soft Publisher: Seismic Players: 1 Released: 1990
All too often a game is quickly dismissed because of lackluster visuals. No matter how deep the gameplay or how epic the quest, most gamers wave it off with a single glance and never give it the chance it deserves. Sometimes they do the right things, but others, as is the case with Super Hydlide, they make a big mistake.
A sequel to the NES original, Super Hydlide saw a release on the NEC PC-88 and MSX2, as well as our beloved little black box. It centers around a great evil that has been spewing forth from a great chasm to the east of the City of the Woods in Fairyland. Everything coming in contact with it, including the fairies themselves, has been swallowed whole. Of course, you’re the only one in the entire world with the skills necessary to save everyone, so off you go!
I’m just going to get the whole presentation issue out of the way right now. Yes, the game looks positively ancient. It didn’t even look decent by Genesis standards fifteen years ago. Yes, the sprites are microscopic and move with perhaps three frames of animation, and the use of color borders on laughable. The fact that your character changes graphics every time you upgrade equipment is heavily offset by his puny size. Such a cool little detail gets lost far too easily among the diminutive sprites.
There, happy? Now that we all agree on just how bad Super Hydlide looks, I can spend the rest of this review convincing you of why you need to play it anyway. There’s far more to this RPG than mere looks can reveal, and the only way you’ll ever discover any of it is to take a deep breath and accept the fact that everything looks like it was filtered through a used spaghetti strain.
The first thing you’ll notice is the godly soundtrack. That’s right, I said godly, as in “divine.” Forget the tinny Genesis sound chip and concentrate on what really counts: the composition of the tracks themselves. Much like other Genesis RPGs, such as Phantasy Star II and Sword of Vermilion, the genius of the music belies the meager outlet provided. I would sincerely love to see someone remaster Super Hydlide‘s score with a full orchestra. It’s simply that good. When you find the hidden area in the overworld (something not really that hard to do), you’ll be able to hear the entire soundtrack at your leisure, and it is here that you will come to see the wisdom in my ranting.
One strike and one plus, not bad so far. I guess it’s a good thing that the gameplay holds up pretty well then. Aside from the standard kill-things-to-level-up genre standard, the game also utilizes a running clock. This is something you can’t ignore, as your hero will eventually get hungry and tired if you don’t feed him and let him rest. This causes his attack power to diminish, eventually making him helpless. I mean it; he will get tired and suffer from fatigue if you don’t let him sleep, and starving him will eventually result in death. Pretty novel for a console RPG from the era, and this adds a unique level of realism that the genre was missing on the Genesis.
That’s not all, either. You must also contend with the weight system. Everything has its own weight, and stuffing your pockets with items will make movement all but impossible. Even your cash can weigh you down! Luckily there’s a money changer and bank to handle your finances, and things get easier as you level up.
Still not real enough? What if I told you that you can’t just go around randomly killing all monsters? There are good and bad creatures, and slaughtering the good ones will cost you morality points, which will prevent you from becoming a true hero. The friendly ones won’t attack and can be avoided safely.
To aid in your quest, there are four classes from which to choose: fighter, thief, priest, or monk; and each has its advantages. Given that there’s a bit of a learning curve, I’d recommend sticking with the first two and hitting at least level three before you venture out too far from town.
There are a ton of dungeons to tackle, the majority of which cannot be completed in a single gaming day. For this reason, you’ll need to pack some food and a sleeping bag (literally) so you can rest up while exploring. I really liked the fact that I had to actually purchase and haul my equipment, though I’m sure many will think that it’s a bit too realistic sometimes.
It’s probably safe to say that many of today’s gamers won’t be able to get past the incredibly simplistic visuals. A real pity, since the underlying game is so deep and just so darn much fun. Super Hydlide isn’t all that long and can most likely be beaten in a weekend, which makes it a great adventure for when you haven’t anything pressing to play. It also boasts one of the most unorthodox final boss battles I’ve ever seen, so do yourself a favor and find a copy. The fairies need you!